The tournament has just reached the break point where only seeded players should remain. Sultan Gangji’s selection of who should be seeded has proved almost perfect this year. The only defeat of (as opposed to withdrawal by) seeds has been the victory of Margaux Valarche & Jasper Tresidder over Marjan Denis & Greg Lim. In the men’s singles, no unseeded player got more than 2 games off a seed in a set.
Yet there are signs that the younger players are challenging strongly. For their men’s doubles quarter final victory, 10-8 in the Champions tie break, Sultan Gangji & Greg Lim had to rely on a forehand error by Steve Yoo and a good serve by Greg Lim – had those two points gone the other way, Sultan and Greg would have been dumped out! Some of the younger men and women are improving fast, as you might expect.
On the Monday evening, it was just about warm enough to dine outdoors. After three fascinating men’s singles matches and a ladies’ doubles, Rachael Gangji provided delicious fish pie and pavlova.
There were parallel men’s singles quarter finals on courts 1 and 2 for the growing crowd of spectators to watch.
On court 1, Ed Fitzgerald, the 7th seed, played Marcio Sugui, the 2021 champion and top seed. Ed is quite a few inches over 6 feet, and has the serve to prove it, along with some powerful ground strokes to match his frame. The only question was whether he could get his forced and unforced error rate down to that of Marcio Sugui, who plays in external tournaments and now has his part 3 coaching qualification. Marcio is a leftie with a tricky leftie serve.
There wasn’t a lot in it in the first set, with Ed’s serve and groundstrokes forcing the win of points and service games, but the statistics were always in favour of Marcio’s more consistent game. Marcio got enough of a look in to force one net service break, which gave him the set 6-3. Marcio produced two service breaks in the second set for a 6-3 6-2 victory to Marcio.
In the second quarter final, on court 2, and easily the longest match, Joseph Rigal, the eighth seed, played Greg Lim, the fourth seed. Joseph is now the men’s second team captain and has improved his consistency a lot over the years, to add to some powerful serves and spin strokes. However, Greg can usually generate more raw pace from his often flat serves and strokes, which should come with a higher error rate. But Greg has excellent timing and a good eye for the ball to compensate. The match was a good battle. Both players approached the net at various times, challenging the opponent to hit a good passing shot or lob, though the latter is often difficult on a grass court with a variable bounce.
The first set was very tight, going to 6 all for a set tie break, which Greg won 7-2 after a few errors from Joseph early on. However, Joseph was pumped up and roared back in the second set, to take it 5-7. However, Greg dug in, and Joseph could not sustain the momentum, resulting in a victory for Greg 7-67-2 5-7 6-1.
My money would be on Joseph to improve enough in the next 12 months to be able to win such a tight match.
In the last of the men’s singles quarter finals, Alex Vallmajor took on Cedric de la Chaise on court 1. Alex has a strong game, but perhaps less experience of pressure singles matches on grass. Nevertheless he clearly was out there enjoying himself. Cedric has an even stronger game, and tends to improve as the tournament goes on, but is seeded second this year as he did not enter in 2021.
There wasn’t a lot in the first set, where both players made a few errors. Alex dropped the occasional ball short, allowing Cedric to hit angled winners out of his reach. Cedric got the net break to win it 6-3.
However, both players cut out most errors in the second set to produce one of the finest sets of singles at West Heath that most of us had seen. Both kept the ball long, and Alex in particular was all over the court to reach Cedric’s placed shots, hitting the ball back with pace and accuracy even when he had to hit it from 3 or 4 inches above the ground. Cedric also raised his standard of tennis to compensate, and there were very few cheap points on offer. However, Cedric reached 5-1 up and had a shot for 30 love, when Alex turned on the style, and played superb tennis to break back and take the set to a tie break.
This reached 6 all before Cedric managed a converted mini-break to take the set and match 6-3 7-58-6. Alex may be another to watch next year.
A ladies doubles semi-final took place on court 3 between Anna Ganev & Penny Isaacs and Margaux & Elena Valarche. Anna is determined and Penny has a variety of groundstrokes including lobs and crosscourt short shots. But Elena has a trick low serve and is a demon at the net and Margaux has both good serves and plenty of fire power in all her other shots.
At one point in the match, Anna was heard to call out “four all”, when all eyes were on the tight men’s singles matches, but it turned out later that she had been joking! There were some noticeable rallies where Anna and Penny got the upper hand and won points, but not enough to make up any games! So it was a decisive “victory to the Valarches“!